"You don't know what a healthy relationship looks like if you've never experienced one before, which is why having someone who can guide you through it and point out what is harmful from what is healthy is so important." ~K. Ripley.
If you are reading this, your first toxic relationship may have been with your parents or one of your primary caregivers in childhood.
The relationships with our primary caregivers creates maps that we tend to follow throughout our life. So, if you had a toxic relationship with one or more of them when you were a child, it is most likely you will repeat those patterns when you are going into relationships as an adult.
All of this happens in the subconscious level, where we tend to gravitate or seek people who engage in similar behaviour patterns to those of our parents, because it feels familiar to us.
In a way, when you engage in a toxic relationship, there may be parts of you that are trying to subconsciously heal the relationship with your primary caregivers, so you seek out people who remind you of them with the subconscious goal of maybe trying to fix, or repair, or heal that relationship in some way.
The way we are cared for as children creates certain patterns in us that we may end up repeating: we may struggle with our relationship to our emotions, or maybe with the way we process how we feel about ourselves.
When we enter a relationship, we take all of these struggles into our relationship, and if we have certain blindspots because we didn't get enough emotional attunement, nurturing, and protection from our primary caregivers, then we are going to take those blind spots out into our world, where we may end up not reading certain red flags in other people, ending up in the same toxic relationship we learned in childhood.
All family patterns, including those who are not from blood relatives, will shape how you go out into your world, what you will look for, which patterns you will feel familiar, the schematic of what you are drawn to, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Because you get used to your own patterns, you may not see the red flags you are contributing to the relationship dynamic. So if you have an inability to communicate your emotions, or know when your historical material is coming up and is intruding in the relationship you have, for example with your partner, that can influence your relationship as toxic dynamics –this can happen in both directions (the other-you).
That includes not being able to recognize when you're triggered, when you are reacting to something in your past rather than to what is actually happening in the moment, which can create loops happening over and over again: having the same argument all the time, entering the same conflict without the ability to find a solution... because if you are not able to see where your own historical material is coming in, then you are never going to have that awareness that you can bring in into the conflict to separate what is yours (and work on it) from what you have to do together for the relationship.
The tricky part in toxic relationships is that it can feel good at times, making it harder to leave. And so, you go through the 4 stages of the toxic cycle, all over again:
Incident or crisis
Reconciliation (honeymoon phase)
Calm before the storm
This cycle doesn’t just affect the people in the relationship, but it can also impact their family and friends.
If as a child you experienced, for example, emotional manipulation from a primary caregiver, you may have a hard time as an adult in a relationship noticing that somebody is manipulating you, or maybe you noticed it and it doesn't feel quite right but you assume it is normal, or you believe it must be your fault that the other is manipulative and you may take the blame for it.
Or if you had a parent that expected you to take care of them when you were growing up, you may have developed the propensity to get into relationships with people who are underfunctioning: who don't really contribute much to the relationship, who have many things to deal with emotionally like being constantly anxious, dependent, or not feeling capable of doing things on their own. If you are used to this role, taking care of someone will remind you of what you had to do when you were a child, it will feel normal to you, and you may end up taking most of the responsibility for the work in your relationship. This is a version of co-dependency and it goes both ways.
Understanding where the toxic relationship cycle comes from and how you contribute to its dynamic is the first step to not just breaking free from it, but healing what is causing you to choose it.
By working on your side of the story, what you are contributing to the toxic cycle, and healing the subconscious childhood wounds that are seeking resolution, you will be able to enjoy healthier, happier relationships in the future.
I am here for you,
~ Luciana, xx.